Marsha Moore is proud of the fact that she puts the math she learned in high school and college to good use on the job. "If your children are saying, 'I hate math, I'm never going to use math,' that's totally wrong," she says. The automated scheduling algorithms she has written are directly related to math, particularly geometry, she says.
Moore graduated from Drake University in Des Moines with a double major in computer science and accounting, and a minor in mathematics. Her first job as an IT manager involved writing algorithms for transportation scheduling at a wholesale lumber company. Later, a position at a company that timeshared mainframe capabilities introduced her to mapping software.
In 1982, she started her own company, On-Line Data Products, and wrote a software product that would become PASS (Paratransit Automated Scheduling System), developed for Glendale, Ariz.'s Dial-A-Ride service. "Within a year, we had 15 operations utilizing that program," Moore says. "It was the first one in the industry to have a mapping component."
It was during her time running On-Line Data Products that Moore pioneered the integration of dispatching software with onboard computer terminals and automatic vehicle location (AVL) technology.
Over seven years, she grew her company to 35 employees and installed PASS with 150 of the major paratransit operators in the U.S. In the early days, Moore says, scheduling algorithms were helping paratransit operators increase productivity by at least 10 percent, year over year. "At one point that equated to about $110 million of savings per year for the operators that used PASS," she says.
In 1995, she sold the company to Trapeze Software Group and continued to consult with them for several years.
Moore joined Fairfield, Calif.-based MV Transportation in 2003 and manages all technology efforts for the company, including in-house servers and a software development group. "We use technology to improve productivity, customer service and the experience for the passenger," she says.
Tools her team has developed include real-time tracking for fixed-route vehicles, with information displayed on bus stop kiosks for passengers to track bus arrivals via text message. Her team also does predictive analysis to monitor on-time performance and adjust schedules accordingly. "That module basically says, 'look at the last 60 days and what would the schedule need to be for us to be 95 percent on-time?'" she explains. They are also developing a module to alter schedules and add or remove buses based on ridership.
One of the projects Moore has found to be most rewarding is MV Transportation's contract with Microsoft. MV operates 200 buses on the Microsoft campus as well as the company's Connector commuter service. Using software tools and mobile data terminals, MV has been able to route shuttles between buildings on campus down to the minute. "It's really advanced the transportation on the Microsoft campus," she says.
The commuter buses feature wireless Internet and a reservation system. "[Passengers] have a reserved seat and they can change it and go home on a later bus or whatever the situation is," Moore says. "It's really helped to increase ridership because they know they have a guaranteed seat."
According to MV, Moore's involvement was instrumental in the company being awarded Microsoft's Vendor of the Year Award for two consecutive years. Moore also received the American Business Women's Association's Business Woman of the Year award in Phoenix and MV Transportation's CEO Award.
"I love what I do — I love transit," she says. "I love that we are helping our passengers. To be able to make their life a little bit easier is rewarding."